The online premium-audio store that Amazon quietly opened last October is raising the company’s visibility in high-end audio, attracting new vendors to Amazon, and reaching high-end consumers who don’t visit specialty stores either because they lack the time or live too far away.
That’s how Amazon views its latest online retail venture (Amazon.com/premiumaudio), which it decided to launch after noticing that “customers were doing thousands of searches for premium brands,” said David Miller, director of audio and accessories. “The demand for premium audio products was generated by customers who increasingly relied on Amazon.com for product information, customer reviews and research on these types of items.”
Expanding the premium selection and putting all types of premium audio products “in one convenient location” were “the next logical step,” he said.
Amazon.com customers “are interested in all types of audio products, and we will continue to grow our assortment across all price points,” he added. People “are becoming more comfortable buying high-ticket items on Amazon.com.”
One-stop shop: The store, he said, “has made discovering and purchasing premium audio products — everything from headphones to home theater systems — simple with detailed product information, buying guides, customer reviews and recommendations.”
Befitting premium products, the store’s product-detail pages feature an enhanced look and feel and showcase product images and services, Miller said. For products that cost more than $3,000, he noted, white-glove delivery and professional installation is included in the price.
SKU expansion: The store’s selection includes many products and brands previously offered by Amazon, but the store added some brands that have never before been available on Amazon.com or online, he said. “We now offer the World of Mcintosh brands (McIntosh, Sonus Faber, Pryma and Wadia) along with more niche premium-audio brands such as Indy Audio Labs.” Other new-to-Amazon brands include Devialet, Peachtree Audio, PS Audio and others.
Some brands, such as KEF, have expanded the number of products available through Amazon.
“Many manufacturers offer their entire lines, and others choose for us to carry a selection of their products,” Miller added. “The decision ultimately lies with the manufacturer.”
Some brands and products are sold by Amazon, while others are sold on the site by 50 partners, mostly retailers but also including suppliers Onkyo and KEF. Premium brands sold by third-party retailers include Cambridge Audio, PSB and others.
All products sold by Amazon.com in the store are fulfilled by Amazon, which “sets its retail prices independently,” Miller said.
All told, more than 80 SKUs of audio electronics, more than 250 speaker SKUs and more than 70 headphone SKUs are available in the store. Prices range up to $24,999 for a pair of KEF Blade Two speakers.
Setup, install: Besides expanding product selection, Amazon expanded its setup and installation services with the store’s launch.
“Before we launched the premium audio store, Amazon customers had set-up options through Amazon Home Services,” Miller said. “However, they were only available from select providers in certain Zip Codes. With the launch of the premium audio store, we teamed up with national service providers to cover all of the U.S. and integrated the installation services into the premium audio product-detail pages, thus allowing customers to easily schedule the installation services at check-out.”
In mid-2015, the company started offering installation services, but the number of installers and services has grown with the launch of the premium audio store, the company added. The services include custom installation of architectural speakers and soundbar mounting. “If a customer requires a more complex installation, they can discuss their needs with the installer before the appointment,” Miller said.
Living without demos: Although brick-and-mortar retailers swear by the need for a demo, Amazon doesn’t believe it is hampered by the lack of demo capabilities. “In the past, an audio demo seemed essential – similar to seeing the screen resolution on a TV,” Miller said. “However, customers trust online professional reviews, customer reviews and words from their friends. It’s likely that many of those sources bring customers to Amazon.com before visiting a dealer.”
Getting to a dealer can also be difficult, he added.
“I used to live in Cincinnati and was really interested in listening to GoldenEar speakers,” he recalled. “There was only one store that carried them in the area and, once I was finally able to visit them – they were closed on Sundays — they only had the Triton Seven instock, which was not the model that I was looking for. I ended up buying something else. We pride ourselves on providing customers with the largest selection and most convenient shopping experience, and this extends to premium audio customers.”